Posts Tagged ‘benchrest’

Boy, some guys just don’t get the word. What word? You know: the typical narrative involved in an airgunners career. It usually goes something like this: “Well, I started out with a Daisy (or an inexpensive) Crosman, and after many years of scrimping and saving, I finally got an adult precision airgun.”

Shane1Shane Kellar, whose chief responsibilities encompass working with dealers and setting up the Extreme Benchrest competition every year, has a vastly different story to tell. “I’ve known the owners of Airguns of Arizona – Robert and Steve – my entire life. When Robert first started selling airguns, my Dad bought me a German made spring gun. I would shoot a hundred to two hundred pellets a day. At 12 years old, I was dropping little green army men in the backyard with that springer and a 3-9 scope. I didn’t know the difference between a good air rifle and a bad air rifle, but I knew I could shoot it well.”

My reaction: HOLY SMOKES! A German springer at 12 years old? Wow!

Kellar adds, “When I graduated from high school, I got a Beeman rifle from Robert. That was my only knowledge of air rifles. I wasn’t familiar with precharged, and I didn’t know that there were different qualities of air rifles.”

He says, “I was working in the banking industry, doing mortgages and home equity loans, when the crash came, and I was laid off. Robert was looking for someone to do shipping, so I started to do that. The phones got really busy, so I started helping the guys out. They said: if you don’t know, just ask – so I started asking lots of questions. And of course I had lots of opportunities to shoot different air rifles”

“Within a month, I bought a Daystate Huntsman left hand and an FX pump. Within six months, I had three precharged rifles, the Huntsman, an Air Wolf, and an FX Cyclone. I did lots of reading about airguns, learning about them, and eventually I began to take them apart, so now I know how to fix just about any of them.”

Today, Kellar’s favorite precharged rifles are the FX Royale and the Daystate Regal. And when it comes to springers, he is right back to his roots; the last springer he would part with is an HW35e.

When he isn’t on the phone with dealers across the country and thinking about next year’s Extreme Benchrest competition, Kellar enjoys competing in air rifle bench rest whenever he can get the opportunity. He helped to start the Phoenix Benchrest Club, and he participates with them on a monthly basis.Shane2

Perhaps his favorite thing, though, is “going out with a couple of my cousins to one of the local dairies and helping them to eliminate their pigeon problem. It’s a win-win: the dairies appreciate getting rid of a pest, and we have a heck of a lot of fun.”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

EB-Chris-1

On the face of it, airgun benchrest sounds like it could be, well, kinda boring. After all, how hard could it possibly be? You take a state-of-the-art air rifle, place it on some really good rests, and bang away at a target at a known distance. It’s easy, right?

Wrong!

Airgun benchrest is a tough, exacting, exasperating, occasionally frustrating sport. There are variables galore: slight variation in velocity at the muzzle, even from the best purpose-built air rifles; variations in the pellets, which are machine made to high standards, but still there are differences from pellet to pellet, usually small but sometimes big, and you also have the shooter’s technique and decisions about when, where, and how to shoot. But above all, you have the wind. In airgun benchrest, the wind is not your friend, buddy, pal, or ally. It is, in fact, Evil Incarnate sent by the Dark Lord Sauron to mess with your accuracy, ruin your life, leave dirty socks on your coffee table, and give you a flat tire. (Well, okay, maybe that’s a tiny bit of an overstatement, but not by much.)

Your Humble Correspondent has tried airgun benchrest at 25 yards, and it is by no means a “gimme.” Even with the best gun, best pellet, and superb rests loaned to me by a world champion bench rest shooter, the wind will still humble you, take you to the woodshed, and make you wish you had taken up a less challenging pastime.

And that’s at 25 yards. At 75 yards, well, forget it. That’s 225 feet, more than twice the distance that at which I normally test airguns.

The good folks at Airguns of Arizona have apparently not gotten the word that attempting airgun benchrest at 75 yards is just plain goofy because, for the third consecutive year, they have sponsored the Extreme Benchrest Competition in Phoenix, Arizona. At the heart of the Extreme event is long-range benchrest: 25 shots in 30 minutes at 75 yards. But that is not the only thing going on. There are also two 25 yard benchrest matches, a timed silhouette match, an indoor pistol match, and a field target match. Prize money was on the line in the Pro class and gift certificates and other goodies in the other classes.

The event this year drew 84 competitors from as far away as Sweden, Venezuela, Canada, and Mexico and airgun writers and World Class shooters from the UK. In short, it is an event that is growing in popularity and is attracting international attention.

Here enters Chris Warwick from Mesa, Arizona. He thought that Extreme Benchrest sounded like fun, so he entered the Sportsman’s Class and ended up winning overall with a high score that was five points ahead of anyone else.

Warwick was shooting a .30 caliber FX Boss. In an interview, I asked him why he had selected that air rifle. He said, “I chose the FX because I thought I should use what they guys were winning with last year.” (FX air rifles took nine out of ten prizes this year, even though they only represented about 30 percent of the entries.)

I asked about his background in shooting and how he prepared for the match.

Warwick said, “Back in the 1980s, I was a high-power silhouette shooter. I did a lot of work from the bench, developing loads. I also did a lot of testing for accuracy for small bore silhouette. It turns out I have far more trigger time from the bench than anything else.”

He adds, “I stopped shooting high power in the mid 90s, and I picked up air rifle shooting for something to do when I am not playing golf. I really enjoy benchrest, and I can practice five days a week in my yard at 25 yards, so that’s how I prepared for the 25-yard matches.”

But then came a surprise. “I had no prep time whatsoever for 75 yards,” Warwick says. “I used the Hawke Chairgun Ballistics program for estimating drops and holdovers, but there are no good data for ballistic coefficients for .30 caliber, so it was sophisticated guessing.”

He adds, “I was very nervous Sunday because that was the first time that I had actually shot at 75 yards. The sighters are at the bottom of the target. If you shoot high, it will fall into the scoring portion of the target, and it will count toward your score. That’s not the way you want to start a match.”

Fortunately, Warwick’s first sighter at 75 yards was 2.5 inches low. He fired a confirming shot, got dialed in, and the match was on. “The neat thing was,” he says, “I was holding so well that I could actually see the pellet at 880 fps as it was streaking toward the target. I could see the pellet get affected by the wind.”

“I made the mistake of keeping track of my score. I was getting a little excited, so I tried breathing, just settling down and watching the wind flags, trying to collect myself.”

He reports that he did experience some unexpected things during the match. “My first shot after refilling was a sighter. It clipped the 10 ring at 9 o’clock, so I held at 3 o’clock to compensate and shot my first 8 of the match.”

In the end, Warwick is ecstatic about the win. “I believe the Extreme Benchrest match is exactly what the name implies: a wonderful event to test your ability as a shooter and wind reader as well as your choice of equipment and familiarity with it. I can’t wait ‘til next November.”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

If you see these guys, they are wanted for pursuit of accuracy in the first degree. They are, in fact, the fine air rifle benchrest competitors who showed up for the Northeast Regionals.

You want to know what it was like? Okay, I’ll tell you. It was a little like being the driver of a car, and you’re at an intersection, and you need to make a decision about which way to go, and the person on your right is yelling “Go right! Go right!” while somebody else in the back is screaming “Go left! Go left!”

. . . Except that I wasn’t driving a car, and no one was actually yelling at me. I was merely trying to put an air rifle pellet down range with high accuracy, and I was getting highly conflicting (HIGHLY conflicting, like two people yelling in your ear) information about what I needed to do. In short, I was trying to read the Salem Swirl.

What do these gentlemen all have in common besides air rifle benchrest? They’re trying to figure out what the wind will do to their pellets.

But I get ahead of myself. It all started back in May, 2012. I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business, when an email shows up from Rick Ingraham:

Re: Air Rifle Benchrest

Hi with the East coast and world postal being in your back yard (Salem NY) how about coming over and doing a write up on it? We will have the number 1  – 2 — and 4 world shooter there . 6 or more from the world team, People from 6–10 states and maybe from out of the USA. And a Pig roast. August 4-5  Salem N.Y. Email or call me if you like

 

Well, that sounded like fun. So after a preliminary visit to the Salem Pistol and Rifle Club to test the Benjamin Rogue, I showed up there on August 4, armed with a camera, to see what the fuss was all about. I had not been exposed to formal air rifle benchrest competition before, but I have to say that I came away impressed.

The bottom line is that the guys (I didn’t see any gals competing, although there certainly are no rules against it) who shoot air rifle benchrest are the accuracy “weenies” of the airgun world. They shoot air rifles off rests at targets 25 meters (roughly 27 yards) away. The target has 25 bullseyes that count for score and some additional bulls that you can shoot for sighters, which are simply shots that are used to make sure your rifle is shooting where it is pointed.

During a match, the shooter typically has 30 minutes to complete 25 shots — one at each of the 25 bulls that count for score. You can shoot .177, .20 or .22 caliber, and there are various classes – such as light varmint, heavy varmint, world postal, and open – for various weights and powers of air rifles. For a full explanation of the various classes, visit http://www.usairriflebenchrest.com/2594.html and http://www.wrabf.com/ .

With the ten ring just two millimeters across, accurate scoring is key. You get one shot at each of 25 bullseyes.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting: the 10-ring on the air rifle benchrest target measures just two (count ‘em!) millimeters across. If you nick the ten ring, you get a ten. If your shot obliterates the ten ring, you get an X. If you miss the ten ring and nick the next ring out, you get a nine, and so forth. The highest possible score for a single target is 250 with 25 Xs.

A purpose-built benchrest competition air rifle.

But wait – there’s more: at Salem, you’re shooting outside, so you have to deal with the vagaries of the local breezes. As a result, the vast majority of shooters involved in air rifle benchrest are absolutely fanatical about accuracy. They will do just about anything to get their rifles to put pellet after pellet through the same hole at 25 meters under dead calm conditions. Why? Because once you start dealing with the wind, which wreaks havoc with relatively slow-moving airgun pellets, you want to be certain that it is not your gun that is causing the pellets to go strange places.

The Salem Pistol and Rifle Club is in a picturesque setting.

So I show up at the Salem Pistol and Rifle Club and the first thing that catches my eye is that this is an absolutely beautiful facility. Clean, well-maintained, with 16 concrete shooting benches with an awning overhead. Twenty-five meters out on the grass is a line of target stands, and in between, each shooter had been putting up his own series of various colorful devices for indicating the strength and the direction of the wind between the shooting benches and the targets. With all the colorful wind pennants and gizmos bobbing and weaving in the air, the whole place reminds me of a county fair.

Dan Brown starting to set up his wind indication devices, with the windicators of some of the other competitors visible in the foreground.

A few yards behind the shooting benches are still more awnings and tables where shooters are prepping their guns, cleaning barrels, and doing the friendly shake-and-howdy that is typical of most shooting events I have attended. Presently, Todd Banks, president of the Salem Pistol and Rifle Club and world champion air rifle benchrest shooter, walks over, welcomes me to the match, and asks if I would maybe like to shoot some benchrest. Well, I just came to cover the match, I say, and I didn’t bring any equipment. Yeah, but you could borrow a gun and use my rests, he says. He continues to twist my arm (ever so gently) for about another nanosecond, and I cave in.

Daniel Finney cleaning a barrel before the match. The following day, he set a world record.

A little later that morning I find myself staring down a line of wind indicators between me and the target. I’m shooting Todd Banks super-gnarly multi-kilobuck benchrest air rifle which is resting on Mr. Banks’s ultra-smooth professional bench rests. I have at my disposal basically the best gear money can buy. I ought to have Buddha-like calm, but I don’t. The two windicators closest to me are saying the wind is coming from the right; the two closest to the target say — perversely – that it is coming from the left. And a couple of windicators in the middle haven’t made up their mind. I trigger the shot and it nicks the black six ring.

The view from the “driver’s seat” with Todd Banks’ heavy varmint benchrest rifle, rests, and windicators.

I later remark on this to Pete Robeson, a rimfire benchrest shooter who is helping to score the match. “Oh, that’s the Salem Swirl,” he says. “Wind comes down into the bowl where the targets are and does weird things. You have to learn to read the Swirl if you want to shoot well here.”

By the end of the weekend, it becomes pretty obvious that some of the shooters have figured it out. You can see all the results of the match here: http://benchrest.com/showthread.php?83804-East-Coast-Regional-World-Postal-Results-747-38X-agg-shot-with-a-Maruader!-Long-post

Daniel Finney used a modest setup for front and rear benchrests, but that didn’t stop him from achieving excellent results.

A lot of the shooters had done extremely well, but the highlight, I would say, was Daniel Finney setting a new worlds record for three targets in the postal match of 747-38X. That means, of 75 shots, he only had three that were not tens! Further, he was shooting a highly modified Benjamin Marauder off leather bags supported by wooden blocks. It just goes to show that you don’t have to have the most expensive gear to do well.

In the end, I think airgun benchrest is a whole lot of fun. You can get started with an unmodified Marauder and scope in production class for a few hundred dollars.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott